Read first: Psalm 130
Committing to a Bible study is a great challenge for many. If you have made it to day 14 of our study, give yourself a pat on the back. Our hope is that you feel the nearness of God more than before. If you stayed on track, it should be somewhere in the middle of November, leaving about 2 weeks until the beginning of Advent, and then another 4 weeks until the world celebrates Jesus at Christmas.
On our end, this was very intentional. We chose to lean into our story as a sojourner looking up to heaven as the Christmas season approached. Advent is a time of waiting. If you plan to participate in an Advent study, the message will teach some iteration of how we wait for our Savior, our king, our healer, our redeemer, our peace: Jesus.
As our November study comes to an end and our season of waiting in Advent begins, put yourself in the shoes of an Isrealite in 430 BC. For as long as you can remember, there have been stories of God interceding into your nation’s path. He has always moved in pursuit of His people. God saved them when they needed to be saved. He corrected them when they strayed too far. He taught them the ways of the righteous, and forgave them when they fell short. He spoke through many different prophets making His will clear and known. Around 430 BC, Malachi was the last prophet to hear from God.
Then it all stopped.
God went silent.
Not for a little while. For 400 years.
There had been gaps between prophets before, but never a gap this long. Had God forgotten them? Would He ever send a Messiah? Were the Isrealites still His children and did they still have a home in heaven?
Israel was a nation with a dark and oppressed past, but they always had hope knowing that God was near. When God went silent, stories of God and His faithfulness to His people were probably beginning to get lost. As people began to lose hope that God would fulfill His promise of sending a Savior, sin began to take over. They strayed farther and farther from their creator, living greedy lives, mistreating loved ones, and breaking many other Old Testament laws.
Back to 2019. Stories are passed down through generations, but many get lost in translation, or simply pass away with the death of a loved one. Consider yourself fortunate if you have stories stored away in your mind that a grandparent told you from their childhood… a glimpse into what life was like in the 20’s-30’s. Stories much older than that start to fade, and fade fast. Imagine just how long 400 years actually is. 400 years ago, it was 1619. That is 5 generations ago. That means your grandparents' grandparents' parents were alive and walking the earth. As a benchmark, in 1619 Europeans had just begun to colonize America, and the Thirty Years' War was going on in Europe.
Now, as we spend the next 6 weeks waiting to celebrate Christmas, remember the 400 years of silence. How do we sit in that silence in a culture of noise? While God was silent, people had a choice. Would they hold on to hope and wait for their promised King? Or would they let the noise of the world fill their minds and drown out the glimmer of hope they had left?
We have this same choice. Our journey is short. It feels long, because it’s all we’ve ever known—but truly, the kingdom of heaven is nearer than we can imagine. The coming glory of living life in the presence of our creator will be more spectacular than we could ever dream. I wish I could turn back and tell the Isrealites to not lose hope—the Messiah is near. Heaven is near. Jesus is near.
I take that same reminder and whisper to myself now—the fullness of heaven and Jesus and eternity is much much closer than it seems. You are merely a sojourner. Watch for Him. Wait for Him. Set your eyes on things above, and keep moving towards the light.